The Compelling Days of Easter

 

I have days when I am compelled to write. Writing is simply a revelation of what is going on in one’s mind. Today is one such day for me.

 

Driving back from lunch it dawned on me that this is Easter week. It usually slips up on me. For those of you who’ve seen what I say on here, I am someone who believes in traditional values. I lean pretty far to the right on most social and political issues and I don’t apologize for that. I’ve a passion for life and liberty and justice. I enjoy simple pleasures. I enjoy humor. I relish passionate spiritual music from another era (crazy I know). I get jazzed and motivated serving others. That’s my calling.

 

But this week of the year pulls from me something that is from the depths of who I am. I know I’m a husband and a son and a father, and now I’m also a Pops. But who I really am is one who believes in the power of the cross of Christ. Yes, I realize it was a cruel and bloody event a long time ago in history that some people cringe and want to ignore. But the event of the cross was the pivotal point in all of human history. God made a bridge to himself with the horrible and brutal death of the God/man Jesus Christ. I’ve learned about him, I’ve prayed to God in his name. I’ve relied on him to carry me when I had no more strength. I’ve seen his hand and I’ve seen his heart. No human reasoning could ever change my mind about who I KNOW he is.

 

So as I ponder this week and the junk He was given to endure, it puts a big lump in my throat. I realize he did what he did to pay a debt for me, that I was incapable of honoring. Whatever you’re doing this week I urge you to stop and ponder the Christ who laid it down for us all. Embrace and accept him. Take the gift that is being freely offered to you, and don’t look back. If you do, you will realize and experience something called resurrection. That word means that something was dead and had new life breathed into it. You’ve heard that story. He died and went to a grave. His detractors thought they had snuffed him out. But he had new breath pumped into him a couple of days later. He stood up and walked out of his place of defeat and displayed God’s power one early morning. That is the story of Easter. I hope you see it and experience it like I have.                   

James – Faith that Works Even in my Pain

Pain. We all experience it.
 
I’ve been following a book study about life’s trials. As I glean new things from this study I am reminded of things that I’ve learned in the past from personal experience about pain. New and unlearned things are objective and not yet understood fully until experienced. Learned things are events or seasons in life when we’ve experienced personally the truths that this study reveals.  

Here’s a question for you. Do you believe that God has a purpose for pain or trials that we experience in this life?

In the New Testament the book of James it tells us in chapter 1 that God wants us to bear up under trials. Trials in our lives come in many forms. Family, work, marriage, and financial issues, just to name a few all seem to find their way to our doorsteps. There are normal human responses to the various pains or pressures we are dealt. Faced with serious challenges, one of our first responses is to run or escape. Seems to be the best thing we can think of. Just run.

Secondly we often just moan and complain about our plight. For those of us who believe in the creator God, we usually file a complaint directed him. We ask him why he’s letting this event or situation happen?

A third common response to trial is to blame someone else or some other circumstance for our trial. We just can’t accept that we are stuck smack dab in the middle of trouble, when the trouble may have been brought on by our own wrong decisions. Deferring or projecting our pain onto someone else seems to ease our pain, but it then creates a bitterness in us that is projected to others.     

Humanly speaking we have these normal responses. But in the spiritual realm we can choose a supernatural response, as the book of James tells us to employ.  The passage from James tells us that the testing of our faith produces steadfastness. Steadfastness is a big word for a number of things. The result of taking God’s route is that difficulty in our lives can “do its full work”. That means if we hang on, God will use the problem for our good. It seems to go against our nature. But following the advice from James will produce good is us.

 Benefits of staying the course include learning loyalty, faithfulness, commitment and dedication to completing tasks. Staying the course makes us stable and complete. I don’t know about you, but many times I don’t feel stable and far removed from being complete! The end result, James says, is that we can perfect, complete and lacking in nothing. That’s what it says! Read it.

Now for something from my own life.

I’ve had two separate and distinct seasons when I was in severe pain. Not physical pain, but emotional distress and tons of accompanying worry, fear and doubt.  These periods persisted for extended periods of time. The first was not of my own choosing and seemed to take on a life of its own that took me through very dark days. Regardless of how I tried to change or escape it, the problems just kept going and going. It seemed that my life would be changed forever and the pain would never stop. 

My second season of trial and pain was of my own doing. I just plainly took a wrong path. I wiggled, squirmed and tried everything I could to remove myself from the situation. But it seemed the more I tried to escape, again it only got worse. This trial lasted for an extended period of time too. My own devices and plans to change and escape did not work. God had to pry my fingers from this trial so that I could finally rest in his provision and grace.

Peace can be found in obedience. God gave us a book of instructions. But many times we just don’t take the time to find the answers already provided for us. We can have more fulfilling and complete lives when we turn to the book of the ages for help in times of need.

Life is hard, but God is good. He has a perfect plan for us, if we will only allow him to work. We must learn to remove our hands from the wheel and let our God drive and direct us. Seems only fitting that the God who created us, could be able and willing to lead us to a life of fulfillment and joy. Living like this is another example of Living Life to the Full.    

Trip of a Lifetime – Coming soon!

 

   I think we’ve all envisioned what it might be like to travel and experience places we’ve never been before. We fantasize about going to Europe, Australia, or Bora Bora, just to mention a few of the dream locations in the world. We’ve all had friends, relatives or co-workers who report back the fun they’ve had at locations where as they were bowled over with awe from their trip. My own kids have been and seen things in their young lives that I’ve only read or wondered about. From the great wall in China, to the outback in the great down under, to Europe and back. And even in the Americas my kids have traveled to places that make my own life seem boring.    

  As we age, our mind’s dreams of going to such locations grows farther and farther as our priorities change and as the old body just doesn’t have the same spring in the step of earlier years. I’ve always loved to travel. It never mattered what the destination was. Just leaving the comfort of normalcy for a weekender has always recharged my batteries. Always has. And hopefully always will.

   With my bride of 40 years we’ve been a few places when we’ve had the chance, that have provided wonderful and lasting memories. Our travels have taken us to and from Canada both in Ottawa for us both and Saskatchewan for my better half. On our joint trip we came back via Niagara Falls (you have to see it to believe it). We’ve taken time in both northern and southern California and we’ve seen some incredible sights. A few years back we had the opportunity to travel to the northeast, all the way to Maine. It included the wonderful drive through Tennessee, Shenandoah Valley of Virginia and on through the Big Apple. It culminated in old New England. And the return down the Appalachian Trail was wonderful.  We’ve had shorter trips within our own little country, known as Texas.  From the tip top of the Panhandle down to the tip of Brownsville. And even from the southeast shores of the Gulf of Mexico to the dry and dusty El Paso. So even within the confines of the U.S. we’ve really been able to eat a good tasty slice of Americana pie.

So it was with a great deal of amazement last fall that our sneaky kids brought us all together for a Sunday dinner where they presented us with a copy of a large check in an amount beyond belief for a cruise! We were shocked with the size of the gift and how they had been saving for years. The gift is to celebrate our 40th wedding anniversary, that happens later this year. The kids were thinking we might do Europe, Hawaii or some other exotic location, but my very first thought was it HAD to be Alaska!

   The great state of Alaska is still considered a pioneer and pristine destination. It seems to be the only place in North America (and maybe the world) that is virtually untouched by the blight of man. The only experience I have with the 50th state is second hand knowledge from a friend who traveled there as a teenager and from my step dad who traveled there and stayed several weeks camping alone. He had the time of his life. The difficult adventure getting there and back was half of the adventure for him.

   We’ve all seen the photos, travel videos, documentaries, and even quirky sitcoms and dramas with the backdrop of beautiful Alaskan. The views are magnificent, even in photos. Ever been on vacation somewhere and snapped what you thought was an award winning photos only to have your viewers say nice. Nice? The photos and experience to me was WOW and I get a “nice” from someone that didn’t go. They just weren’t “there” and don’t really understand so they? That scenario is probably played out with most vacation photos for everyone. I tend to think after seeing a number of YouTube videos that those really do capture more closely the sights and sounds of the adventure. The missing components from a sensory standpoint is actual sights, actual sounds, and actually feeling whatever weather elements and scents only captured while “really” being there. 

So very soon (less than 3 weeks) we will be embarking on something wonderful. I’ll try and share as much of it with you, that I humanly can.

November 2nd, 1973

The day it all began for us
Today we celebrate 38 years of marriage.  Wow, has time flown! Seems like only a couple of months ago that we celebrated 25 years.
We were so young and innocent. But that’s not so bad. We, together, lost our innocence as life happened. And boy did it happen. I could dwell for hours tell about what we’ve “gone through” together. Admittedly, life was tough for way too many years. But life has a way of being that way. Some parts of our lives are brought about by choices we make. Others might be “chance” or “circumstance”. Or are they really?
Details are not important, but the big picture is important. The woman that God brought into my life and the person she was and is today is the important part of the big picture. She is my rock and my joy at the end of the day, everyday. She deserves much more than I’ve been able to provide her. She is my crown and my joy. She is a Proverbs 31 woman. (look it up).
When we joined our hearts and lives together  (even at our teen ages!) we made the commitment to each other that the “D” word would never be in our vocabulary. We were and still are committed to each other. All in. Sewed up. Sealed and delivered. Anything other than a complete life together would never be acceptable. …for better or for worse.
Having said that, there have been issues and events in our 38 years that have tried desperately to destroy us and the life we have. But the commitment we made and the love that we share transcend “issues” , “challenges” and time.  I must tell you that the basis of our love and commitment began on the foundation of commitment to our faith in God. He has been the one that has given us everything we have together. And that list is a long one.
Somewhere along the way we picked up 3 munchkins. What can you really say about your children in a public forum? I will attempt it since I am not ashamed. And the reason is because what I tell you about each of them is a good story. They are each one in their own ways, amazing adults full of faith, creativity and joyous life. We cherish each one. They have been a cosmic glue that God gave to help hold us all altogether. And to add joy to fullness, we have a daughter-in-law and son-in-law that we adore and consider them our own.
Now for some icing on this cake. Grandkids!!! Our quiver of  blessing grew this summer  with the addition of 2 little princesses. Verbal explanation about what these little girls mean to me (us) cannot expressed. All I can say is “wow” I (we) love these little gifts from heaven.
Life’s road has leveled out for us a bit. There are still bumps in the lane, but we take them as they come. Surely there will be more obstacles as we grow old, but we’ll take each day  we have and attempt to live our lives “to the full”.  We laugh a lot now. And when we do cry, they are worthy tears.    
So for those of you who are not yet married, don’t fall prey to society telling you it doesn’t work. And when you give it a go make the commitment ahead of time to stay the course. Finish the race. The rewards greatly outweigh the risks. Commit your marriage and life to our great God. He will see you through it all. We owe it all to Him.  
Doll, I love the life we have together. It is getting sweeter all the time. Let’s try for 38 more years!       
Love,
JWH (Jimmy)

My how time flies!!!

I’m how old??
When we were young who ever thought they would be old enough to attend a 40th High School Reunion? YIKES!
Yep, that weekend is upon me. Within 36 hours I will be able to look myself in the mirror and see how I stack up to how all of my classmates have also faired in the aging process. Although most joints these days hurt on alternating days, believe it or not I still think like I’m 18 again.
I catch myself wanting to ride around town late at night listening to my favorite tunes in the heat of the summer night with no AC in my car. There soon became another element to be added, my “young love”. Yep, after my short stint at drinking and driving and getting caught doing all kinds of wrong, my life reversed course at the perfect time and soon after God got ahold of my life, I found the love of my life! Talk about incentive to keep my life going in the right direction! My sweet wife of 37 years now made my personal life full while my God at the same time was filling my cup spiritually.
It’s been a wild ride. A fun ride. A tiresome ride. A weary ride at times. But it has been a ride filled with hurt but many many more joys at the end of the day.
It is really neat to read Facebook posts from friends from high school that have maintained their marriages and many whom I wondered would ever settle down tell the story of how God has impacted their lives.
I’m sure there are also some war stories that may never be heard or told from lives that did go down in flames, but for this weekend we will reminisce on the redeeming sides of the stories. I’d really like to find out what other people have been up to REALLY. I want to know if my own struggles compare in any way and see if others have found the same answers I’ve been able to find as we try and live this life to its fullest.
So on Monday morning next week I hope to be able to report some good stories of people like me who have feet of clay, but who have kept the faith and who are finishing strong.  

Tough Week…..Tender Family

…..Well my reflective and sentimental mind awakened me again very early for the second Friday morning in a row. Last week I was up early reflecting on my Mom’s life and passing and remembering what she did for me and I shared many of those thoughts at her memorial service. But today it is about Jeff.
I could not fall back to sleep as my mind was reeling with thoughts and memories of Jeff Thompson and family. I knew that I had to get up and jot down my thoughts or I would not be able to remember them or I knew I wouldn’t be able to go back to sleep completely.
So here goes, from a restless mind.
Could this family possibly have started with a Toga party? Not 100% sure if that is correct but I think I recall Jeff telling our Tuesday morning guys when we were all telling about how we met our wives. DeeAn, if this is not true I apologize! We all have our unique stories of how we met our spouses, huh? Some are just more amusing than others.
When I first met Jeff his family was still in what I would call the “fledgling stage”. His kids were still pretty young. And Amy (the youngest) was a very young duckling and cute as pie. They were all small, innocent wide eyed and cute.
Just so you’ll know what kind of folks I’m talking about, this portion of the Thompson clan began with a special needs child. Families with special needs kids have challenges that most of us will never face. It takes people of true compassion and care to intentionally have a child with many needs. And then to add five more gifts to their quiver makes this story even more special.
Jeff was a learner and observer. He watched how others were parenting their kids and was always curious about how to deal with the challenges of raising kids, especially once they reached the dreaded teenage status. For those of us a little further along in that process, we gave Jeff what advice we could and then we would all pray together for God’s direction and the grace to be the kind of husbands and dads that our families needed.
I remember a few extra special times where Jeff was doing things for or with his kids. Like when he went to church camp for a week. Reports were that he was the kid that was very close to being kicked out of camp for speeding on a golf cart around campus and “other things”. He was just one of the kids. But he wanted to be with his kids any time he could. So he went to pre-teen camp.
Then there was the time of the surprise gift of two four wheelers that were hidden in my garage until Christmas morning when I delivered them for Jeff to his driveway. The looks on those kids’ faces were something. And the excitement Jeff had was equal.
I recall a Colorado trip when the family van broke down and it took almost a week to get parts for repair. They turned that potentially bad experience into a memory, as they sort of camped out in that little town and even went to the local church there that week.
Jeff intentionally took his kids individually on trips to wherever that child wanted to go. I guess living in a large family, you can at times get lost in the shuffle. Well that is not the case here. He planned for inclusion and always made it fun and directed to that child. From NASCAR to Mexico to Mid America Mall to rescuing dogs or rescuing friends, he always included his kids and taught them by example.
Besides Jeff’s wife and kids that he cherished, he loved dearly his mom, his sisters and their extended families and had many funny stories to go along with them all. I could extract some hush money from them, I’m sure!
There were others that Jeff considered family as well, like Andrew and Lori Spurgeon. He opened up his home and his life to their family and supported every international mission effort they were involved in with compassion and care. He very much respected Andrew’s spiritual wisdom, squeaky laughter and his love of rutabagas. Go figure.
From my view Jeff keyed on strengths, not weaknesses with respect to his family. He always told them he was proud of them and affirmed them every chance he got. He taught them hospitality, by on many occasions having groups into their home for meetings or welcomed anyone into his home.
I could go on for much longer but I will end this now. These are not just random thoughts, but reflections screaming to be released from my feeble mind.
Jeff was not a superman. He had feet of clay. He was broken at times and deeply remorseful for any errant thoughts or actions. And he knew he was forgiven by and relied fully on God’s mercy and grace to keep going.
This wild and crazy guy poured out his life into his family.

A Life Lived Well

As you can see I have not created an entry for some time. My original intention was to create a blog to help consumers with the basics of financial matters as related to credit. But life happened and my credit business fell by the wayside and now I am on to other ventures.

Last night as I lay awake not being about to fall asleep it occured to me that I wanted to share some new things via blog. Since Facebook is not the place for lengthy recitations, I thought this could be the appropriate place to talk about my friend and compadre Jeff Thompson.

Night before last we all lost Jeff to a tragic accident. But when this unfortunate event took place he was doing something he really loved. He was spending time in the pasture across the street from his home. I’m sure Christy his daughter had a lot to do with his love for the outdoors and animals, but Jeff had developed a love for horses and all things related to them. Ironically, Jeff’s new found love a few years ago helped him overcome a long episode of severe back pain. After two back surgeries Jeff still fought daily pain. He tried everything he could to aleviate the pain. Nothing seemed to help.

But as Jeff found out more and more about horses Christy help feed and water Jeff’s new passion since she had a long love for animals and especially horses. So it didn’t take very long before Jeff was buying boots, a hat, all kinds of tack and finally a pickup. It wasn’t long before he started buying horses of his own. Jeff was hooked.

So when Jeff walked across the street on Monday night he was not just feeding horses or helping his neighbor, but he was feeding a passion. But this was not Jeff’s only passion. He had many, let me tell you!

I consider Jeff one of lmy dearest friends and comrades. We had common wishes and desires. We shared a common love for our wives and kids. We shared a common passion to help others find depth in their faith, especially for men.

We began our friendship in a group that was called, at the time, ISI. This stood for “Iron Sharpens Iron”. This name was taken from Proverbs 27:17 “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another” NIV. This men’s group met each Tuesday morning @ 6:30 a.m. at our church. This was an existing group that Jeff had already been a part of. And I was a “newbee”.

Frankly I was not prepared for such a group nor for such a guy as Jeff. I was in a transitional time of my life (but aren’t we all!) I came with the intention of just listening and not talking. But the dynamics of the group were such that the participants were “encouraged” to share what was going on in each others lives. It was an eye opening and engaging forum. For the first time in my life I heard men talk about the REAL issues of life and marriage and family. I resisted talking as long as I possibly could, but if you know Jeff he wouldn’t let you rest until you opened up and shared what was REALLY going on.

I will talk more later about this group and where it took us. But for now I want to start this blog again and talk about my relationship with Jeff and how much this man means to me and my family.

So check back often and I will be updating as many times as possible in the next few days and weeks as my mind recalls and my tears allow me to see and type.